Friday, September 12, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hours to Succeed and an Aging Writer

Outliers: The Story of Success
I pretty sure that Malcolm Gladwell did not invent the 10,000 hours notion. But that is where I read about the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. In the book Outliers he told about the Beatles skill in music being related to the time they played for 8 hours a day while employed in Hamburg. 

The whole concept just boggles the mind. Just think how much time you would have to spend at the keyboard, for example, to master your typing skill and to become a proficient writer. I have been writing for about 8 years now (I think). Even if I spent 2 hours writing 7 days a week, 365 days a year for those 8 years I would not even be half way there. And I have not done 2-hours-7-days-a-week-365-days-a-year...not even close.

But I find that very comforting in many ways. My expectation or even disappointments are tempered by the fact that I, although I have given a lot of time to writing, am not close to being as good at it as I will be when I am 80 (good Lord willing and creek don't rise).

In an article written by Karen Austin over at The Age Above Me she talks about changes in the aging mind and shifts in abilities. One of the skills she discusses is writing. It turns out that very good writing is not affected by age. Very good writing was attributed to good health, education and intellect. Here was her advice:
Even though writers do not have a Grandma Moses icon to inspire them to achieve later in life, there are many people who continue to compose or start to compose online  and offline in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Invite your friends and relatives who are a generation above you to put their ideas in writing. 
If you have a plan to write the great American novel, do not delay. If you wait until your sunset years, expect the task to take you a little more time and the writing to be a little less complex in diction, sentence style and overall structure. 
Putting age aside, if we have a dream or a desire to do something, we need to get on with it. As Austin points out, it does not get easier but many things are possible.

Getting my 10,000 hours in would be a true accomplishment I think. At least I would bragging rights...I like bragging rights a lot.

Just a thought.


About Karen Austin: 

Wichita, Kansas, United States
After teaching college English teacher for 30 years, I decided to turn my attention to the generation above me. I recently earned a master's in Aging Studies from Wichita State University, so now I'm a gerontologist. I volunteer at a skilled nursing center. I also teach classes in Aging Studies for WSU.


  1. OK, let's see if this works. I have been married for 38 years. Assume that over that time I spend 8 hours a day interacting with my wife. That would be 110,960 hours. That is ten times the 10,000 hour figure but I am nowhere near mastering the "skills" needed for a successful marriage.

    Apparently it is just about time, but also attitude and desire!

    1. Ok Bob, you made me laugh. Maybe it is easier to be a Beattle than it is to be a spouse!


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